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Environment and sustainable development

An important part of Karolinska Institutet's sustainability work is to highlight and strengthen KIs research and education that contribute to knowledge about how society affects human health, now, in the future, locally and globally.

KIs sustainability efforts also include environmental and social responsibility in the way KI as an organisation is operated.

According to KIs environmental and sustainability guidelines KI shall;

  • Through research and education contribute with knowledge on health and sustainable development
  • Use energy efficiently and in the future become climate-neutral
  • Reduce the climate impact of our business trips
  • Set environmental and ethical requirements for our procurements and purchasing
  • Minimize the health and environmental risks in the laboratory activities
  • Sort waste at source and reduce the amount of waste

Research for sustainable development

Climate change, other large-scale environmental change, population growth, widespread poverty, increase in welfare diseases across the world, spread of infectious diseases and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are all examples of global sustainability challenges related to human health.

Although all research conducted at KI contributes to improving human health, the research that highlights the links between health, socioeconomic factors and human environmental impact is of particular importance for sustainable development.

A summary of research in this area has been put together in the report Research on Sustainable Development.


Epidemiology is the science of occurrence of diseases in the population. Major steps forward have been made with regard to factors that play a role for disease occurrence and disease risk. This includes studies on causal factors in environment, life style and genetic factors.

Public and Global health

KIs research in public health studies inter alia the links between health and our living, working, school and built environment. The research in international and global health relates to health problems that are often related to poverty in low income countries.

Infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance

Control of communicable diseases is crucial for a sustainable future. Global warming, increased populations, migration and deforestation alters the spread of pathogens creating new challenges. KI researchers are contributing to solutions at many levels.

Understanding the spread of disease at hospitals and in society helps alter behaviour. Basic research on pathogens (parasites, bacteria and viruses) can help developing new drugs and vaccines. Antibiotic resistance is an increasing problem where KI structural biology researchers provide important structural templates for drug development.

Climate and health

Health effects of the ongoing climate change is a new area of research at KI within the fields of global health and environmental medicine. The goal is to build the KI research capacity in areas such as climate change, natural disasters and health care; climate change and infectious diseases; and climate change and health effects in exposed areas.

Environmental medicine

KI:s research in environmental medicine includes research on the contribution of air pollution to cardiovascular disease, the effects of persistent organic pollutants on the hormone balance, the contribution of metals to cancer and the potentially adverse health effects of new materials such as nanomaterials.

The research also constitutes the basis for risk assessments of toxic substances and other pollutants, as well as for national and international restrictions.

Education for sustainable development

Universities have a key role in shaping a sustainable world. The UN has declared 2005 - 2014 the decade for education and learning for sustainable development. According to the Swedish Higher Education Act universities should promote sustainable development so that present and future generations are provided a healthy and good environment, economic and social welfare and justice.

Environmental and sustainable development - in education at undergraduate and advanced level

Environmental and sustainable development - in doctoral education

Sustainable development in KI:s education

Karolinska Institutet has as a medical university a particular responsibility to disseminate knowledge about health in the context of social and economic development, locally and globally, in the short and long term. This may regard health related to society's environmental impact, or deficiencies in its economic and social structures and systems.

Other aspects of sustainable development with particular relevance for KIs education is the environmental impact of health care, or its ability to provide good health care regardless of a person´s gender, culture, ethnicity or economic situation.

A number of KIs educational programs and courses have an explicit sustainability approach but KIs goal is to strengthen all programs in this respect.

The Board of Education has given KI:s program directors the task of introducing sustainable development in their respective programs.

KI students for sustainable development

Want to see a better world that satisfies today's needs without compromising future generations to meet their needs? Are you interested in joining a student think tank to formulate new and creative ideas for sustainable development? Then you might be one of our new "ambassadors" for sustainable development! If you are interested in joining KIs student think tank or if you have any questions, please contact Maria Niemi.

Sustainable campus

An important part of KIs sustainability work is to be environmentally and socially responsible in the manner in which KI operates. Prioritised areas are the university's energy use, business travel, procurement and purchasing, laboratory safety and waste management.

Energy use

In 2010 KI shifted to using energy from renewable resources which resulted in roughly a 30% cut in the energy carbon footprint.

KIs energy use and carbon footprint is however significant due to its extensive experimental research. KI has set a target to reduce the energy consumption per square meter by 25 percent by 2025 compared to 2010.

A lot of the necessary energy saving measures must be carried out in cooperation with KIs property owners. KI is however solely responsible for the use of energy that is related to its own activities. Everyone can contribute to using less energy by an energy-conscious behavior and by choosing energy-saving equipment when procuring and purchasing.

Business travel

KIs travelling is the university's largest carbon footprint, mainly due to the many distant flights undertaken since KI is an international university.

KIs travel regulations steers towards more environmentally friendly means of transport and to meetings that do not require any travelling. According to KIs travel regulations, we who work at KI shall:

  • Always consider using the phone, video or webb conferencing instead of travelling
  • Use the train instead of flying when travelling to Göteborg and other nearby domestic destinations
  • Choose eco-taxi
  • Rent eco-cars
  • Take the KI bus between Campus Huddinge and Campus Solna
  • Use public transport
  • Choose hotels that are eco-labelled, environmentally certified or that can prove in any other way that they conduct active environmental work

Procuring and purchasing

KI can contribute to improving the environment as well as the living and working conditions of people by placing environmental and social requirements for the procurement and purchasing.

KIs guidance for procurement and purchasing describes how environmental and ethical requirements should be made in connection with procurement or purchasing (see Management system).

Laboratory safety

KIs research laboratories handles a large number of chemicals and biological agents. KIs laboratory safety work aims to minimize the risk of exposing people or nature to hazardous substances. Read more abooute Laboratory safety.


KIs system for handling waste allows for source separation of many materials. The university administration is responsible for providing sorting furniture in common areas while KIs departments are responsible for their premises. Read more aboute KI´s Waste management work.

KI Council for Environment and Sustainable Development

KI Council for Environment and Sustainable Development advices the Vice-Chancellor regarding KI:s environmental and sustainability work. Members of the Council (swedish) and their work during the mandate period 2017 - 2019 is described in the document. There is also an activity report for 2016 (swedish) to take part in.

Management system

KI:s environmental and sustainability work is managed in a system that is being built up in accordance with the international standard for environmental management - ISO 14001.

More about KI:s environmental and sustainability management system.

Role description and delegation of duty for the departmental environmental and sustainability representatives

A role description and delegation of tasks to departmental environmental and sustainability representatives has been developed. The idea is to simplify for Karolinska Institutet’s departments to live up to European and national legal requirements, as well as national and local directives, in the field of environment and sustainable development.

More about role description and delegation.

Global goals for sustainable development and Agenda 2030

At the UN Summit on 25 September 2015, the world’s heads of state and government adopted 17 Global Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The countries of the world have committed themselves to leading the world towards a sustainable and equitable future, beginning on 1 January 2016 and continuing until 2030.


KI applied in 2018 for contribution from SIDA for communication material, and this contribution has resulted in 17 sit cubes, with each of the global goals represented on the cube. The purpose of the cubes is to raise awareness within KI, and to strengthen the work on sustainable development in the university's research, education and collaboration with the rest of society.

There are 17 cubes in Flemingsberg as well as in Solna, that can be borrowed for marketing at events and exhibitions.

More information about the global goals and the cubes on the page

News in progress/things going on

KI Sustainability Day May 7, 2019

KI and the climate - every journey must be justified

New conferense equipment facilitates travel-free meetings




Ann Rämme Strömberg

Telefon:08-524 862 41

Enhet:Miljö och säkerhet